T Etica, T Network, T Talk
What is the status of Italian companies in terms of protecting the environment and people? What are the limits with which they must deal? Did the Pandemic represent an opportunity? This is explained by Francesca Rulli, CEO of Process Factory and creator of the 4sustainability system and brand.

Florentine lady specialized in management systems for the implementation of sustainable development projects, always passionate about the environment and human rights issues, Francesca Rulli, Founder and CEO of Process Factory, has clear ideas on what the factors are on which Italian companies should aim for to be truly effective in terms of sustainability. “The challenge is ambitious – she explains – and coincides with a series of evolutionary and development processes: to be efficient also in terms of sustainability, it is necessary to grow in managerial skills, management efficiency, planning and control, communication skills, transparency. The change is all about here.”

A game that, to be won, requires companies to overcome certain breaks.  Also on these Francesca – creator of the 4sustainability system and brand that certifies the sustainability of the fashion & luxury supply chain – has the pulse of the situation.

The most relevant break that I have been able to verify and that I continue to register is of a cultural nature and involves both brands and companies in the fashion supply chain, and more generally Italian small and medium-sized enterprises with an organizational style that is still very traditional.  The limits to change are mainly linked to the absence of figures with specific skills and to slowdown in IT innovation. Skills and technology are the key to building stable and structured systems capable of optimizing data management to obtain a credible measurement of sustainability performances.”. The pandemic has spurred the recovery of the accumulated delays and accelerating sustainable projects. It has “amplified the urgency of change, also encouraging reflections on production processes and consumption habits, triggering the transition to new business models that are essential, under penalty of exclusion from the market. Integrating ethics and business is right and possible and on this is built the authority of a methodology adopted today by the excellence of the sector”.    

If the excellence of the sector has proved enlightened in this regard, what is the state of art of medium-sized Italian companies in terms of conversion to the use of lower impact materials, elimination of toxic chemicals from production cycles, process traceability, growth of organizational well-being, conscious use of resources to reduce environmental impact, development of reuse practices?  

Chemical management is the field on which the Italian supply chain has committed itself to date with more conviction, identifying a priority in the reduction of toxic and harmful chemicals from its production cycles. An approach that is also the result of the demands of a market that is highly aware of this matter

Specifically, the 4s Chem protocol of our system has supported and continues to support this need in line with the ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals). The logic is that of an improvement that ideally tends towards excellence and that is transversal to all dimensions of sustainability.

In addition to chemical management, what are the areas in which you have the greatest growth of interest?

Certainly, the traceability of processes and the monitoring of the supply chain, the replacement of raw materials with alternatives with a higher sustainability content, but also the social dimension that our 4s people protocol interprets.

4s People is one of the six protocols that make up the 4sustainability framework: which are the others?

4sustainability, developed to support the companies in improving their sustainability performance, is based on the typical reference initiatives of the fashion system: Materials, Trace, People, Planet and Cycle and Chem.

The Chem 4sustainability protocol represented the first core of 4sustainability, a project started in an almost pioneering way …

We started in 2013 with Brachi Testing Services, with which we tried to intercept the still little conscious needs of the fashion market. At that time, the first form of commitment from a sustainable perspective was the need to reduce harmful chemicals in production. The Chem 4sustainability protocol, which Process Factory implements today on the fashion supply chain, is the result of this synergy: we wanted to build a structured system that would help companies in the supply chain to implement concrete sustainability projects in key areas to lead the sector towards a complete model of sustainable business. The main idea was to generate a system focused on processes and performance measurement that would stimulate the supply chain to grow. A framework that would also help brands to quantify and qualify their supply chain on the same sustainability projects, acting as a sustainability vendor rating system.

An ambitious project that is giving valuable results. What are the next steps you are working on? 

One of our first goals is to strengthen the brand as a suitable tool to ensure the credibility of the supply chain’s commitment to sustainability also in terms of communication to the market.   At the same time, we are working to ensure that an increasing number of brands recognize 4sustainability as a qualification framework for the supply chain.   An operation that aims not only to encourage collaboration between the brand and the supply chain, but also to introduce a common language, simplify the obligations of adapting the supply chain to the demands of the brands and simplify the duty of verifying brands towards the supply chain.

Another important point concerns digitization: we are working to develop our IT platform to support intelligent data management, and essential element around which the system revolves and is founded.

Data management is one of the aspects that has linked 4sustainability with Tollegno 1900…

We started working in the Biella district few years ago. On the topic of chemical management, the local companies started with a bit of delay, having undertaken the risk hedging path with local players, before opening up to the global methodology of ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals). It must be said that the companies in Biella have become the protagonist of a great recovery.    The meeting with Tollegno 1900, last year, fits into this picture. It is a historic company, which over the years has gone from the size of a large industrial complex to a more contained company in terms of production volumes. The complexities, however, are the same, related to internal and external processes, to data management, to the sorting of procedures that tend to measure sustainability performances…

After all, what does it mean today to be a sustainable company?

Sustainability means above all balance, being able to balance the “what” we do and the “how” we do it. We Italians are very good at “what” because we know how to create extraordinary, high-performance, and aesthetically impeccable products. On the “how”, however, we still have a long way to go, even though we are certainly ahead of many realities far from us not only in a geographical sense.

In practice, where should we act?

I’m thinking above all the reduction of environmental and social impact of production, of a more equitable distribution of value between the various links in the supply chain. Themes that have important practical implications in the procedures we adopt, in the choices we make every day in the company.


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